The most difficult thing about my job is being keenly aware of the vast amount of heartache and pain among us. Sometimes it feels like it’s too much to bear, especially during a time when I carry my own personal hurts and disappointments.
There are often no words appropriate for the suffering brought on by abuse, betrayal, broken relationships, and the like. In Scripture, however, we find a response to suffering that gives voice to our protests, questions, and complaints. That voice is lament. I recently read that “lament arises not because we have stopped believing in God and his providential rule over creation, but because we do believe and therefore cannot understand why…why suffering exists under the watchful care of God” (emphasis mine).
It is important to understand that lament has not the purpose of taking our pain and sorrow away. Rather it is a way of uniquely connecting to and communing with the Father. It brings a different kind of relief. Not so much relief from our traumas or resolution to our struggle, but a recognition that God is sitting with us in the midst of them.
Lament usually includes three basic parts: the Complaint (the description of one’s distress), the Petition (an appeal to God for divine intervention), and the Praise (certainty that the prayer has been heard and a vow to praise God for deliverance).
Last week I attended a workshop that taught about lament. Modeling after the presenters, I spent some time in Scripture this afternoon creating the following lament. Perhaps you can use it to bring your deepest sorrows to the Lord. Read it aloud. Then allow Him to minister to your soul.
Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness
Because of my enemies—
Make straight your way before me.
Not a word from their mouth can be trusted;
Their heart is filled with destruction.
Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am faint;
O LORD, heal me, for my bones are in agony.
My soul is in anguish.
How long, O LORD, how long?
I am worn out from groaning;
All night long I flood my bed with weeping
And drench my couch with tears.
My eyes grow weak with sorrow;
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
My spirit grows faint within me;
my heart within me is dismayed.
I am feeble and utterly crushed;
I groan in anguish of heart.
All my longings lie open before you, LORD;
my sighing is not hidden from you.
Answer me when I call to you,
O my righteous God,
Give me relief from my distress;
Be merciful to me and hear my prayer.
Give ear to my words, O LORD,
Consider my sighing.
Listen to my cry for help,
My King and my God,
For to you I pray.
In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice
In the morning, I lay my requests before you
And wait in expectation.
I called on your name, LORD,
from the depths of the pit.
You heard my plea: “Do not close your ears
to my cry for relief.”
You came near when I called you,
and you said, “Do not fear.”
You, LORD, took up my case;
you redeemed my life.
Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
It is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD.
You are a shield around me, O LORD;
you bestow glory on me and lift up my head.
To the LORDI cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill.
I will lie down and sleep in peace,
For you alone, O LORD,
Make me dwell in safety.
I delight greatly in the LORD;
My soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
And arrayed me in a robe of righteousness.
I love the LORD, for he heard my voice;
He heard my cry for mercy.
Because he turned his ear to me,
I will call on him as long as I live.
The LORD is gracious and righteous;
Our God is full of compassion.
Be at rest once more, O my soul,
For the LORD has been good to you.
(Psalm 5:8-9; 6:2-3; 6:6-7; 13:2; 143:4; 38:8-9; 4:1; 5:1-3; Lamentations 3:55-59; 3:23-26; Psalm 3:3-4; 4:8; 6:9; Isaiah 62:10; Psalm 116:1-2, 5, 7)